Perfectionism is not about striving to be perfect. It is a deep-rooted fear of lack of acceptance and being worthy.

perfectionismTerrified to not fit in, scared to not belong. Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by high standards, rigid expectations, and specific ideas about how to achieve a desired outcome.
It is a maladaptive coping strategy and a behavior that is used in response to negative beliefs. It can start at a young age and looks like trying to gain approval, trying to be liked. This can be from modeled behavior from parents or from a fear of judgment or disapproval from others. A childhood where parents withheld love and affection causes emotional trauma that can spur perfectionistic tendencies. Early childhood experiences, such as having parents with unrealistically high expectations can establish an idea that love must be earned by perfectionism. This can cause the child to develop a false belief that to gain love and approval they must work hard to prove themselves or be exactly what their parents want them to be. This is often accompanied by low self-worth or insecurity as well as negative self-talk.

It becomes a quest for emotional safety. These behaviors are adopted to avoid the pain associated with those negative feelings and traumatic experiences. The child can begin to think if they do everything right, then they will be loved, or they won’t be blamed for anything and can gain approval and acceptance. In a situation where neglect or abuse is not a factor, there can still be learned behaviors with driven, goal-oriented parents or parents who excessively praise children for their achievements, rather than their efforts.

Perfectionism holds us back. We can get stuck in planning and analyzing, and it can be a form of avoidance to getting started and doing things. We want to be seen as worthy and deserving and falsely believe that unless everything is just right, we won’t be accepted. Perfectionism can feel exhausting and overwhelming and contributes to depression and anxiety. It can also drive extremely isolating behavior. When we feel we aren’t good enough or not worthy we fear losing connection with people. If you struggle with these tendencies, seek therapeutic help to begin the healing process and to learn how to accept and love your true authentic self.

If you have a question you would like to ask or a topic to be addressed in next month’s article, please email jenn@pinkertonpsychotherapy.com. If you would like to schedule an individual appointment, please contact us at 713.800.6999 or www.pinkertonpsychotherapy.com.

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